HSJ’s roundup of Monday’s must read health stories

A costly lesson

The NHS spent £3.6m preparing for a hospital merger that was eventually abandoned, HSJ revealed on Monday.

Figures obtained by HSJ show Taunton and Somerset FT spent just under £3m developing plans to take over Weston Area Health Trust – the smallest acute trust in the country. Weston itself spent £634,460 preparing for the transaction. The funding came from the NHS Trust Development Authority.

Following failed attempts to create an integrated care provider and a franchise arrangement, in October 2014 Taunton and Somerset was the only provider left bidding to run the smaller trust. However, in October this year the TDA halted the takeover because it said the two organisations “would not represent a clinically or financially viable organisation”.

Taunton and Somerset said “going through the acquisition process has yielded a great deal of learning” for both trusts and the wider health economy.

HSJ correspondent Will Hazell tweeted some context: it is worth remembering that Weston is forecasting an £8m deficit this year, and Taunton and Somerset an £11.5m deficit. Also, for comparison, the NHS spent £1.8m on abandoned George Eliot takeover.

Will TK’s wi-fi prediction come true?

All NHS organisations will provide free wi-fi in their buildings, in a move designed to improve both clinical outcomes and patient experience, Jeremy Hunt has promised.

The health secretary’s commitment followed Baroness Lane-Fox making the provision of free wi-fi across the NHS estate a key recommendation in her report on the NHS and technology published earlier this month.

The Department of Health said it would be funded from the £1bn allocated for NHS technology projects in last month’s spending review. The DH has admitted it does not know how many trusts already offer free wi-fi, so the costings are still to be worked out.

But we were given a clue about what levers the DH and NHS England could use to try and implement this ambitious policy earlier this month by outgoing director of patients and information Tim Kelsey.

With the DH now officially behind the plans, Mr Kelsey’s comments, made at his last appearance at the National Information Board, are worth revisiting.

He said NHS organsations should only get a share of the £1bn NHS technology funding – if they commit to providing free wi-fi.

He said: “What I would predict is that a significant amount of [the £1bn of additional capital investment] will be devolved to local health economies in order that they can begin to support development of the digital roadmaps, on which a core standard requirement/opportunity is [providing] free wi-fi [across their estates].”

A familiar story

Of 225 acute hospitals in England, 92 per cent, did not manage to run wards with their planned number of nurses during the day in August

Meanwhile, 81 per cent, failed to have enough registered nurses working at night to meet their plans, and 79 per cent, missed their target for registered nurse staffing across both day and night.

Those were the concerning numbers being discussed by the BBC and national newspapers on Monday.

If they sound familiar, it’s probably because you read them on hsj.co.uk in November.

The analysis by HSJ workforce correspondent Shaun Lintern – who has been discussing the story on BBC radio – has been picked up as the NHS goes in to what is expected to be a very tough winter.

Read the original in-depth analysis on hsj.co.uk.